NYC COMEDY HANDBOOK FOR NOT DYING

SUP HI HELLO. I get a lot of DMs from people I've met once or twice out on the road, or people I've never met at all, or people who I know and just suck at keeping in contact with. Messages about moving to New York and how to get on shows, what mics to do, etc. I tell people I'll get back to them and sometimes I do not get back to them. I DO NOT want to blow these people off. I have totally benefited from reaching out to other comics in that way in the past and I DO NOT want to big time anyone and act like I don't have time to give out advice just because I've experienced a modicum of success being a professional clown. HOWEVER part of how that success works is that I am an extremely busy person and just in a practical sense, don't really have the time, so I want to put together a motherfuckin' marauder's map for people who move here. The thing is, I don't do open mics that much. I get booked because I've been here long enough that people know who I am or something. I also knew people and was known by people before I even moved here. I don't really know how or why some of it happens. I also sometimes DON'T get booked. I may not be the best person to ask because I'm not on that 100 percent stand up grind that New York is so famous for, I split my week writing and making podcasts and stuff between spots. Please anyone and everyone comment with what mics are good right now.

 

Firstly, there are a few tiers of open mics it seems to me. You hear all these stories about how Pete Holmes and Chris Rock and people like that started by barking at the big tourist comedy clubs in times square. This strikes me as bullshit, even if it's true it's just misleading. Bringer shows are a scam. If you're doing comedy in a venue you SHOULD be supporting that venue. If you're doing open mic in a bar you're renting out that bar as practice space, buy something to pay them back. HOWEVER, a club that tells you you have to bring 10 people and they all have to pay 20 bucks and buy 2 things just so you can open mic is taking advantage of the fact that you don't know better. Don't take comedy classes, don't do bringers, just get funny in the bar mics and people will hear about you and start booking you. IF you decide to go down the Times Square club path, once you're in, you can make money doing spots. The shows are for tourists that sometimes don't speak english so you should only be doing this if your ambition is to become a very universally palatable comic, like if you want to work the road in a club sense - not a bad path, works great for some people, but it's not my thing at all.

 

Mics at clubs, to my knowledge, don't seem to lead to spots at those clubs. I could be wrong, but it seems like they just serve as a practice space.

 

Alt mics at bars are still pretty desolate but can be fun if you go to them regularly and meet the people that haunt them. They're generally free but you should still try to buy something once in a while as a way to keep the bar happy with the fact that's it's engaged in business with the people running the mic. If you were gonna drink a coke or a beer that day, drink it at the mic. Every once in a while there's a particular bar mic that picks up steam and is a fun hang. When i first moved here it was Revision. I don't really know what it is now.

 

The worst and most predatory mics are usually listed on Badslava.com, The medium to good ones are on freemics.com, and the good good ones aren't listed anywhere really. I knew a guy who ran a mic that was fun and he purposely didn't list it because he didn't want it to be mobbed with weirdos. It was a good mic.

 

As far as getting booked on shit, you have to do mics, meet people, make friends, make FRIENDS. Comedy is a bleak battle against a force as strong as gravity and you'll be doing it for a long time before you start to get paying work or a big chance at anything, you might not get one at all, or you might get lucky and hit it big real early. Regardless, you should have fun with it or you should stop doing it, it's just not worth it to treat it as purely work. It's an art, not a business. ALSO those friends will turn into collaborators. and I can't stress this enough, MAKE YOUR OWN SHIT. You want to get booked? Start a room and boom, you're booked on your own show. Also other people will book you in hopes of getting on your show. No one will get paid in anything other than drink tickets but hey, free drinks and space to perform and practice.

 

Also, hang out at The Creek and Cave. The beer is cheap, there are mics every night and everyone hangs out there, so you'll meet everyone and can immediately be pointed in the direction of where other people are hanging out.

 

I have a lot of thoughts on this, many of which I recently summarized on THIS podcast https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/16-jake-flores/id1202036045?i=1000385555374&mt=2

 

so give that a listen if you're curious. My opinions on these things are my own and will definitely conflict with the ways in which some people think approach art as a career, so if you're interested in a different path, ask someone who's gown down that path. Personally where I'm at right now is more about making my own shit, booking my own tours, recording my own stuff, and waiting to see if i get lucky with a more commercial thing at some point. I also do comedy because I like it.

new bio:

Jake Flores was born in Austin TX in a dumpster full of Chinese food after an old jacket had sex with another old jacket. The jackets named him Jake, after the fact that they were jackets. Then in 2007 he was in the finals of NBC's Stand Up For Diversity. He's has been doing stand up for slightly longer than the current booming glut of millennial iPhone wielding irony zealots so he feels a completely undeserved sense of superiority for being an android wielding sincerity zealot. He yelled a lot about his drinking problem and then in 2014 Stand Up Records! decided to secretly record one of his yelling sessions and it became an album called Humours. It did pretty well so he moved to New York to start yelling at a professional level. The Jackets are very proud of him.

This happened

Here's a self involved story about me doing comedy: Patton Oswalt is one of my favorite comics ever. He's one of the reasons I decided that writing jokes could be a cool and complex way to be artistic without having to learn to play bass. This was years ago before every millennial with a narcissism complex figured that out. One time before I ever entertained the idea of doing stand up, a roommate walked in on me sitting in the dark listening to that Black Angus bit on headphones and laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. It scared the shit out of him but then I made him listen to it and he laughed. Then he did a lot of coke and beat up his girlfriend and I kicked him out. One time while I was bartending at Fun Fun Fun Fest I got to take a break to go watch his set from the side of the stage. Anyways a year ago I moved up here to NYC with no job and a can do [fuck you] attitude and spent a lot of time sleeping on couches and looking for jobs. Then a blizzard took a dump on me and I got really sick. I found a "room" in someone's kitchen deep in Bed Stuy and a "job" delivering pizzas on my bike for a "restaurant." On my birthday an elderly Italian man threw garbage at me while yelling something about scones. Phones don't work underground in the trains so If you get any texts or anything they hit you when you come back up above ground. One day I walked up the steps from a train and my phone was vibrating like a vibrator (simile). I checked it to find out that Patton was retweeting a bunch of shit I'd written on Twitter (a joke app for dumb idiots). I gained a lot of followers including Mr. Oswalt himself. I had never met him, I didn't really know how it had happened, though at this point I have some suspicions. It was a very cool and reassuring gesture to do for someone like myself who was freezing to death, considering giving up, and trying to navigate a confusing new frozen labyrinth full of all the ethnic stereotypes we learned about from watching Animaniacs. In a way it kept me going in the face of a white wall of seemingly endless tundra. I imagined him doing stand up at my age and getting a Friendster bump from some cool famous person or whatever the hell people did back then. It's indulgent to think about that sort of thing but sometimes you have to buy yourself a milkshake.

A couple days ago he was signing his new book, Silver Screen Fiend, at a Barnes and Noble. I got to talk to him for a second and told him thanks for the Twitter thing. I also got to make a killer joke about Richard Pryor's Supernigger but you kind of had to be there. Anyways I don't care what you think about the joke because it made him laugh. I made Patton Oswalt laugh, alright? Anyways get this, he remembered me from Twitter and said I'm funny. Then I made awkward conversation with some twitter people and left. I tried to do the UCBEast Tuesday night mic but apparently that shit is canceled so I got on a train and went home. Anyways when I got off the train and came above ground my busted ass Nexus phone was shitting itself with notifications because the motherfucker did it AGAIN.

It's cold as shit outside and I basically live in that warehouse from Fight Club. I'm writing this under a hanging light bulb like some idiot that read all the beat authors in high school instead of having sex. I haven't drank in a week but my immune system doesn't care. I'm sick again. My temples feel a dull crushing sensation and I have a voice like a roast beef sandwich. I sound like Harvey Firestein if he was talking while slurping soup. I guess I'm saying is, we all need to really think about what happened at Woodstock '99. Those who do not know history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

Good night!

Margaritaville on Fire

This ends with me standing in the atrium section of a New Orleans venue, simultaneously crying, smoking, laughing and drinking while a good chunk of the 2014 Hell Yes Comedy Fest stared at me like I just performed improv without wearing a plaid shirt.  Here's how I got there:

I started doing stand up somewhere around 8000 beers ago at about 1000 beers a year and somewhere during that time I dropped out of college and really gave up on the whole math thing. I was 19 ish. When you start doing stand up you try on a lot of hats and what you don't realize is that you're eventually going to end up sounding like is yourself, hatless (i repeat, hatless). This was way back in 2006, before attractive people went to open mics and while Marc Maron was sitting on a stool in the small room of Cap City, delivering a sermon about how iPods were turning us all into zombies. Oh the irony, Marc. I didn't even really think comedy was that cool until someone hipped me to Stanhope, Hicks, comics of that ilk. Dark comedy instantly turned me on. I grew to love watching the vanilla greats: your Brian Regans, and your Andy Kindlers, and a third thing, but they didn't make me want to do stand up. Watching Lucas Molandes shred through his own blood and guts to a half filled Velveeta Room audience in Austin, that's what made me feel a little twinge of magnetic compulsion to really try to use jokes to sepuku myself and see what spilled out.

A lot of comedians attempt dark comedy. Watching a comic do it successfully is like watching a musician use heroin. It will definitely kill them but it looks really cool for the 5 to 7 years that it's 10 percent of their blood. It lends itself to a sexy, mysterious identity. It's fragile and difficult to wield, though. At every open mic there are 2 or 3 ex trench coat mafia dorks trying unsuccessfully yet again to cross the wires between rape and jokes. There are also 2 or 4 hacktresses going for that whole "I'm cute and I say really messed up things" angle. It's popular to blog about how these people are destroying the world, but rather than run them out of town I think it's important to understand that they're just attempting a kind of joke that is just outside of their range of skills or comedic voice or whatever. They're just lost. Darkness is the hardest thing to major in, comically. I know because I did it for a long time in Austin and I was a pretty forgettable comedian. I accomplished some things, but I spent a lot of time almost connecting with audiences and then having to go home and rethink my voice. I only started getting good at it in the last couple of years. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely still learning.

I live in Brooklyn now and I went back to Austin for a week long run of shows culminating in a set at Fun Fun Fun Fest. I've been gone for a year and I received a welcome home equivalent to being shot in the face with fireworks made of whiskey. I can not BELIEVE the respect I was given. I performed 9 times in 6 days in between frantically trying to squeeze in old friends and family for face time and staying up all night to finish writing assignments. Most of this was fueled by alcohol and adderall in lieu of food and sleep. The shows went (mostly) great. I feel like I've hit a good timbre between sad and stupid and whatever else I'm vomiting into microphones these days.

I then shoved off for New Orleans to perform at Hell Yes Fest.

Manic depression is hard thing to understand. You know when you feel depressed because it feels numb and weak. Mania just feels like you're having a great time. If you ever look down and you're wearing a Hawaiian dad shirt and you can't remember what happened 3 hours ago but you know it was "right and tight" in your own words, yooouuuuu *Jeff Foxworthy voice* might be having a manic episode. You also might just be having a great time. You also might just be drunk. It's hard to figure out in that moment. Manic depression, alcoholism, these are the only diseases that result in you destroying at karaoke. And I fucking destroyed The Boys are Back in Town that night. I ate a Cosby's feast of Jello shots and a Cosby's date's feast worth of drugs that week.

Saturday morning I woke up to a text message that there had been a death in my family. I'm not particularly close with most of my family, but this story contained some details that made me feel a familiar twinge. I had to perform that night. I attempted to bury my thoughts in the garbage barge that I had spent two weeks turning my mind into. No one gets to be sad in Margaritaville, right? I had been killing on stage for two weeks and knew all of my material by heart so no big deal right?

Somewhere around 7pm I was on stage at the Stand Up! Records showcase and rambling about death and the irony of trying to perform comedy after hearing news like this. It was kind of funny to me and only me. Halfway into this I realized a room full of people were staring at me, confused, scared, and uncomfortable. I was drunk and sloppy, crying and oversharing. I was on stage talking to strangers in the middle of a full on manic swing. My eyes felt huge. I went into normal material autopilot and people laughed at the punchlines where the laughs were supposed to go. I closed, got off stage, and went to the side of the room to smoke a cigarette. It only fully hit me how crazy I looked from the outside when JT Habersaat walked up to me and asked me if I needed to drop off the second show. He was right. I needed to go to sleep. All of the adrenaline drained from me. I was staring at this blurry room full of a show I wanted to do but couldn't. The party was going to go on without me. I'd felt this before. It's bad. I found my ride, went back to the place I was staying and tried to sleep through tremors and wheezing.

Sunday night, the fest was over but there was mic at the Hi Ho Lounge. Everyone still in town was going up, doing a few minutes before going home. Josh Androsky asked me if I wanted to go up and I sheepishly agreed. My confidence was shot. I was embarrassed.

Then this guy went up and changed my mind. He told about ten jokes about murdering women and was greeted with icy silence. He navigated the set poorly, insisting on doing his big "woman murder" closer. It was a classic bomb. When he finished, John F O'Donnell followed him and delivered to him a severe verbal beating. John saved the show by masterfully returning levity to the room and berating the guy for alienating so many members of the audience (which he did). I watched Woman Murder Comedy guy bolt for the door and I recognized something in his eyes. He had to be on some level, mortified. He ran out the door without talking to anyone. Whether he'll ever understand it, he had just tried to take his set to that dark part of the universe where serial killers overlap with sunshine and laughter, and he fell on the spike of poor execution. I'll never know what happened to that guy and there are too many comics in the world for me to care.

I spent the next 700 sets of this open mic thinking about what it is to connect with audiences, what exactly it is that I get out of doing stand up. Most of us are never going to be rich and famous or even successful. A lucky few of us are going to land somewhere in the middle to low end of the business. I think when you're on your way out you're going to realize the best part of this whole ride was these brief moments of catharsis that happen in half filled venues at 3 in the morning.

So I went up at Hi Ho, very late in the show and started off like "Look, this is gonna get weird because I'm gonna talk about this guy dying, but you have to stay with me because I swear this is funny..." and after that all I remember is being consumed with the loving vocal approval of a bunch of comedy freaks in the night.

Comedy = tragedy + at least 24 hours.

I made a thing

A little over a year ago I was living in Austin, Texas, a place where you can slalom from barback job to temp gig like some greased up butterball turkey hurled between bearded jorted shirtless troglodytes in one of those World's Strongest Man competitions. I was doing just that, flying through the air, not a care in the world, writing a lot of material about suicide and GG Allin and pajamas and shit because it was becoming clear that I was not going to be marketed off as one of the cute new sweatered alt comics to watch that year or any year. There's freedom in knowing that, though. When you're washed up you can do whatever you want. You can walk around wearing an open Hawaiian shirt with your sunglasses congealed to your eyeballs listening to spotify without logging into a private session with reckless abandon because hey man there's nowhere to go but up, and that probably isn't happening.

I think if you ever find yourself down and out like this you should take advantage of it because there's a certain bruce lee esque fluidity that you get when you act without actully caring about the consequences of anything. For some people this leads to playing Bjork videos on multiple TVs in their one bedroom apartment and finding out what bullets taste like, but for the rest of us it leads to creating cute little paintings and monologues. I guess what I'm saying is that I'd previously spent some time in comedy trying to write ten minutes that would get me in front of some coked up marketing graduate in town from the b'uhhig c'itty who would then take me to TV-Wood and make me into a Z list demigod. This actually works for a number of people and that's why if you go watch a comedy show half of the sets go like this:

"Let me tell you a little about myself."

"I'm this race and some other shit"

"I'm single or not single"

"I look like this"

"comic books"

"this is my impression of [Zach Galifianakis]"

~Fin

It's basically an actor's audition. There's nothing wrong with it really, but it's easy to get stuck doing shit like this forever and lose sight of why you decided to pursue the ancient moronic art of telling jokes in the first place.

Hey man, do whatever you want with your set, but I'm saying creatively it's easy to miss the forest for the woodsmen jacking off in it. Most of us will be completely devastated by this industry, even if we're at some point moderately successful, so I say get weird with your shit. Fuck writing that 10 minute audition for Hollywood set, just write. You're doing stand up in the first place because you're a psycho, so climb down that well and pull some scary Ringu shit out.

Here's what I'm being so self congratulatory about: I recorded an album that I think was fueled by this whole gun to the head, nothing to lose, Bjork is speaking to me through the lottery-esque fluid state of mind. I really enjoyed producing the material for it because I was just writing for the purpose of being funny and creating a long set that had an arc and a mood and shit. There was no other purpose than I just wanted to make a thing. That felt a lot better than obsessing over which jokes are gonna win me the big comedy contest at the county watermelon festival. I'm probably wrong and it probably sucks, I will definitely die in obscurity, but this definitely at least happened.

It's available here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/humours/id900843799

 

NEON SIGNS THAT READ: CHURCH

During the day I lay around outlined by sweat like a dead body, waiting for some deus ex machinal pro wrestler to apparate into my home and tear Infinite Jest in half so I don't have to finish reading it. At night I walk around the greatest city on earth conducting a hands on study of what the different types of well whiskey taste like, commiserating over dead memories of women like If the Great Gatsby threw up a lot and really liked monster trucks. Oversharing, tindering, talking about a green light to anyone who will listen. My friends are other human shipwrecks. They're like reverse idiot savants - mostly geniuses but profoundly dumb in one area or the other. For weeks I've felt like hot ice cream melting in a dashboard. Tonight I got a new bit to work and now I'm all pleasant and smiling. Stand up is smack.

RACIST BAR - DO NOT PATRONIZE

So whoever runs the twitter account for the Long Branch Inn in east Austin is in trouble for making a dumb joke about Mexicans and now everyone is up in arms about how they're a racist bar or something. Here's the joke: "We are all wetbacks. #mexico #robbed #WorldCup2014"

Wetback is a racial slang term for someone who immigrated here illegally (like their back is still wet from swimming through the rio grande) and it really varies from person to person, situation to situation whether you consider joking about this type of thing to be really offensive. Ironically, "slur" is a harsh word. I'm half demon blood (mexican), I work in bars, and I've done stand up in Mexico (San Antonio), and my personal experience has been that a lot of Mexicans fucking love joking about race - to the point that it's annoyingly all they like joking about (see San Antonio). The people that get offended by this sort of thing all seem to be sitting around the quad, trying to build an identity about complaining on the internet. I'm speaking in broad terms here because it's fun and we're talking about a joke, not a riot. CALM DOWN.

 I mean, it would be kind of a solid joke in the right context. He's joking about how everyone in America is technically an illegal immigrant, you know, that whole angle. What this has to do with soccer, I don't have the slightest idea or give a fuck because I don't watch sports. The fact that people are fainting from "the vapors" about this is kind of obnoxious. Yeah it was a dumb joke and that person made a dumb social media move only because the internet is full of people waiting for buzzwords to let them know they should be offended. The Longbranch employee should have known that sad fact and at least confined that shit to their own personal twitter account, because people get shitcanned from business for this sort of thing all the time. Also I have no idea who this person is, but they're probably an asshole, who cares? Most bartenders in cool dives are. That's part of why you freaks patronize them. I've heard some backlash against the owners of the place and I'll have you know that I worked for one of them. He's a moron but he's not racist. He also has nothing to do with the bartenders at said bar. He's their boss and only cares about getting wasted and running a business poorly. It's not like they're all part of some white power cultural movement together. One time I went into the Longbranch and told the bartender that I worked for their owner and he pushed my money back across the bar to me and bought me my shot and beer. He was white, I'm mexiwhite, the band hanging out in the corner was black, and we were all just getting drunk and trying to get laid before we died of terminal whiskey dick.

DEAR PROSPECTIVE BOOKER

I never use this. Who the fuck uses their website regularly? Who the fuck visits anyone's website? I listened to The Monitor by Titus Andronicus 5 times this week, I have never once thought "I should check out their website regularly, I bet it's a great way to keep up with my favorite Artists™." That's why I forgot to inform the ghosts in here that I was going on tour. I just got back from what me Chris Cubas and Josh Androsky were calling History's Greatest Monsters. We hit Memphis, St Louis, Kansas City, Denver, and Los Angeles™. There was karaoke, old men on acid, karate, karataoke, Ben Kronberg, weed, slides, jokeoke, tears, tears for fears, and yelling. It was tight. Anyways my record Humours is coming out soon. You(?)'ll get the joke when you see the album art. BYE GHOSTS.